Semen analysis is the most common laboratory test for the initial diagnostic evaluation of male reproductive function. Characteristics assessed are volume, pH, viscosity/liquefaction, agglutination, concentration, motility, rate/progression, viability (If motility is less than 30%), morphology, and evaluation of cellular debris and white blood cells in the sample.
Volume of the ejaculate is contributed mainly by the seminal vesicles and prostate gland. Precise measurement of volume is essential because it allows the total number of spermatozoa and non-sperm cells in the ejaculate to be calculated. Immediately after ejaculation, semen is typically a semi-solid coagulated mass. After collection the sample is placed in the incubator to liquefy.
Viscosity is the thickness of the sample. If viscosity is abnormal, or too thick, a sperm may not be able to swim properly. Agglutination refers to motile sperm sticking to each other, head-to-head, tail-to-tail, or in a mixed way. It is also suggestive of the presence of anti-sperm antibodies.
Agglutination may be indicative of problems conceiving naturally. Concentration is the number of sperm cells (dead and alive) across 1 row on 10 squares of a Makler counting chamber. The number of sperm cells will be used to determine the final total motile count.
Motility is calculated as a percentage by counting the total motile number of sperm cells out of 100. The (volume) x (concentration) x (motility) = the total motile count. The rate is the speed at which the sperm are moving and the progression is the forward movement of the sperm. A sample may have normal concentration and motility, but if the sperm have poor progression, they may never reach an egg.
Viability, which is only performed on samples with motility < 30%, is used to provide a check on the motility evaluation. The sperm are stained with a dye that will be absorbed by non-viable cells, but not by living sperm. Dead cells have an incomplete cellular membrane which lets dye through, but living sperm have a complete membrane that keeps it out.
Morphology, or shape of the sperm, is evaluated by closely looking at the head, mid-piece, and tail of 100 sperm and determining them to be normal, or abnormal. Abnormal sperm are then broken down into several categories based on appearance. Sperm with the best morphology are individually selected by our embryologist to be injected into the egg.
All of these parameters help our doctors predict their plan for your cycle and provide you with the best care. A semen analysis may be repeated after male vitamins and other health changes are recommended.
~Conceptions Andrology Department: 1/16/17